Create a Safe Bathroom for Aging Parents With These 5 Essential Features

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Prioritizing safety and well-being becomes increasingly important as our parents age. One area of the home that requires special attention is the bathroom, which is the most dangerous room in the house.

Creating a safe and accessible bathroom for aging parents can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and support their independence.

It's best to make changes before they are actually needed to decrease or eliminate potential hazards that could result in future mishaps.

Read on for practical solutions to unique challenges older adults face with bathroom design.

Challenges for Aging Parents

As our parents age, they may experience temporary or permanent physical limitations and mobility issues that result from age, injury, or illness. These problems often cause decreased strength and flexibility, visual impairment, balance and coordination difficulty, and other deficits.

Navigating a traditional bathroom environment is more dangerous with these challenges, and there is an increased risk of falls and injuries.

Falls are a common cause of injury and subsequent disability among older adults. And the bathroom is a common location where these accidents occur.

Slippery and hard surfaces, inadequate lighting, tight spaces, and obstacles can all contribute to bathroom falls and injuries. Addressing these issues is crucial to minimize fall risk and maximize safety as much as possible.

Importance of Bathroom Modifications

The bathroom is the most hard-working space in most homes. It deserves extra attention because it is where essential daily tasks such as bathing, toileting, and grooming are performed.

We can help our aging parents maintain their independence and dignity by addressing aging challenges in their bathrooms. Creating a safe and accessible bathroom environment can significantly reduce hazards and greatly improve their overall quality of life.

Benefits of Creating a Bathroom for Aging Parents

As people age, they often experience physical limitations that make it harder to navigate bathroom spaces. This can lead to frustration, loss of privacy, and increased dependence on others for assistance.

Therefore, creating a bathroom environment tailored to the needs of aging parents is crucial in promoting their independence and ensuring their well-being.

While enhancing their lives, you'll also increase your peace of mind knowing you're making your aging parents' bathroom safer.

5 Key Features of a Bathroom for Aging Parents

While many renovation options exist, these are the key modifications for a senior-friendly bathroom.

Grab Bars and Handrails

The first bathroom renovation for aging parents that most people think about is grab bars. They are also called safety rails, handrails, and safety handles.

Installing grab bars in strategic locations provides stability and support for aging parents as they move around the bathroom. Grab bars can be installed anywhere they can be securely anchored, typically in a wall stud.

They are most frequently located near the toilet, shower, and bathtub to assist with sitting, standing, and maneuvering. It is essential to ensure that these fixtures are securely mounted and can support the individual's weight.

Non-Slip Flooring

Unfortunately, bathroom floors can be slippery and hazardous, especially for older adults with balance and mobility issues. Installing non-slip flooring, such as slip-resistant tile or vinyl, is one option. Applying non-slip coatings to existing surfaces can also significantly reduce the risk of falls.

Additionally, using non-slip mats inside and outside the shower or bathtub can provide additional traction and stability.

Accessible Showers

Traditional showers and bathtubs can be difficult for older adults due to their high thresholds. Installing walk-in showers with no threshold eliminates a trip hazard, making bathing safer and more convenient.

The most accessible version of a walk-in shower is called a roll-in shower. As the name implies, a walker or wheelchair can easily enter without a barrier. Since many falls occur while trying to get in or out of the shower, eliminating the need to navigate a step significantly increases safety and decreases potential risks.

These modifications can be done by replacing the existing shower or bathtub or adding a separate barrier-free shower. Roll-in showers offer many other benefits in addition to their accessibility. 

Regardless of the type of shower or bathtub, a shower chair or seat can significantly increase safety and accessibility. They come in various styles and sizes to fit different shower and bathtub configurations, personal needs, and preferences.

Although walk-in tubs are available and attractive to many, they have several significant drawbacks. An accessible roll-in shower offers more options and flexibility for the future.

Raised Toilets

After the shower, the toilet is the next greatest area for falls in the bathroom. Installing a higher toilet can facilitate getting on and off the toilet. This is a critical modification since this is an activity done many times daily.

For most people, a chair-height toilet works best. This article shows how to choose the best toilet height and shape for seniors.

In addition to a taller toilet, strategically placed grab bars nearby can significantly improve bathroom safety for aging parents. Some raised toilet seats have built-in handles, which can also be helpful with transfers on and off the commode.

Adequate Lighting

While the prior recommendations require a potential bathroom remodel, this next suggestion is relatively easy. Since eyesight decreases as we age, ensuring adequate bathroom lighting improves functionality and bathroom safety for aging parents.

Simply changing out incandescent lightbulbs for brighter LED (light emitting diode) bulbs can make a quick and dramatic improvement. Adding smart lighting solutions such as motion sensors or strip lighting are other simple ways to improve bathroom lighting.

Final Thoughts and Next Steps for a Bathroom for Aging Parents

Whether they are living with you or in their own home, creating a safe and accessible bathroom for aging parents is essential. These bathroom features are designed to assist with the unique challenges of aging and minimize the risk of falls and other accidents.

To learn more about other features adult children should consider for their aging parents' homes, sign up for our free home features guide today!


About the Author

As a home health Physical Therapist for over 20 years, I help clients solve home dilemmas so they can live their best life.

I'm here to use that same problem-solving expertise and training as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help you create an optimized home that's forward-thinking and future-ready to support you and your loved ones well for a lifetime.

Ready to discover your Golden Girl strategy for a retirement-ready home?